I can not tell you how many times I get told- “I don’t know how you do it!” and I usually respond, “I don’t know either!” or “I don’t, He does it!” Haha! But the truth is- I do NOT do it all. However, I have figured out a few tips and tricks that make things a bit easier. So for the sake of helping other mamas ’embrace the little years,’ I thought I would share some things that work for me with four under four!
Of course, we all know the concepts behind freezer cooking, and I’ve posted on that before, and I do frequently make things in large quantities and freeze for later. And I usually try to have dinner prepped BEFORE the dreaded 4:00 hour. Because if they see me in the kitchen then, all they want to do is eat!
But what about breakfast and lunch? Between changing diapers and breaking up fights and children clinging to my legs, it takes me at least a half hour or more to make breakfast and lunch each day. And my kids wake up HUNGRY. I used to try to get up when I heard the first one stirring and get breakfast on their plates (with hubby’s help as he heads out the door!), but with a baby in the house who generally wakes around the same time needing a bottle, this is hard to do. So instead of the craziness of kids in the kitchen while I’m making food; every night before I go to bed, I make (or prep) breakfast and lunch for the next day. It usually only takes 20 minutes, and I’m able to get things in and out of the fridge without little fingers making grabs for condiments or carrots. I color code the lids (because Jonah can’t have dairy) and pop them in the fridge for the next day! Not surprisingly, I’ve found I use up food more efficiently and get a better rounded meal when I have the time to stop and dig in the fridge and think it through. Now I would say that half our mornings start with eggs, and although I’ve tried precooking them, they are just better freshly scrambled, so instead, I get the rest of the breakfast prepped in their containers, mix up the eggs, and have them ready in the fridge to scramble in the morning- which only takes a few minutes.
(Oh, and starting my overnight cold press coffee before bed helps too!)
Have a routine.
I find that my kids work best on a schedule, a routine. We all get up and eat breakfast right around 7, snack at 9:30, lunch is at 11:30/12, the twins go down for naps at 12:45, Jarvis down at 1:30, they all get up around 3/3:30 and have snack, dinner is at 5:30, twins to bed at 7:30 and Jarvis at 8. (and Jeanie is currently on a four hour eating schedule starting 6:30/7 with two long naps and a cat nap). I am still working on making the activities in between a bit more scheduled (free time, creative activity time, busy bags time, etc), as my kids really THRIVE with predictability and we all love to know what/when the next thing happens. Obviously this changes a bit on days Jarvis has preschool or we have morning plans, but an overall routine helps a lot on those stay at home days. Find your groove and routine and settle in!
Listen to worship music.
There’s a lot of noise in my house. a lot. a lot. I’ve always liked it quiet. But I am embracing the noise. And for some reason, my kids play better with music in the background. Usually, we listen to contemporary Christian in the house, and kids Christian in the car. And besides my kids playing together better, I’ve found it’s easier to find my own patience and joy while humming along to worship music. Pandora is my friend!
Outsource whenever possible.
This is of course dependent on your personal lifestyle and funds and is something you will have to discuss with your spouse. After the twins were born, it quickly became apparent that something “had to give.” We consider feeding our kids real food prepared at home very important, and I spend a good amount of time on preparation of those foods. When I have a newborn, I try to prep as much food as possible so we can “eat of the freezer” but I also do not have qualms with buying whole wheat bread instead of making my own. However, hands down, the things that I find the hardest to complete with lots of small children in the house is cleaning the floors and bathrooms! I vacuum nearly daily thanks to dog/cat hair, but mopping and bathrooms are very hard for me to complete with little feet slipping and little fingers pulling at toilet paper! We have decided that hiring someone to come in biweekly or weekly to clean the floors and bathrooms is a worthy investment in our home life right now. We carefully budget for it, and they can clean in one hour what would take me several hours while tending to children! If you can’t afford to hire someone, see if there is a church member or family member who would be willing to donate an hour a week to watch the kids while you clean, or clean for you. Or maybe you need help cooking and they can donate a meal once every week or two. Or maybe you need to grocery shop alone and they can watch kids for an hour, or grocery shop for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!! One of the best gifts I got when the twins were born was when three friends showed up at my door, set me up a foot soak and started cleaning my house, completely unasked. 🙂
Mandatory nap or rest time.
For EVERYONE in the house- even you, mama! I find that I rarely sit unless I am feeding a baby (and even then I am often walking around!). All my kids still nap (Praise the LORD!), but even if they aren’t napping, rest time while the littler ones nap is important. I let myself lay down a couple times a week without guilt! But even if I’m not laying down, I try to spend at least half of nap time SITTING down. Even if I’m folding laundry or on the floor sorting toys, I try to sit. This mental and physical downtime is an important refresh for the second half of the day, for everyone! And this is when I occasionally blog!
Find time to spend in His word.
Oooo, this one is so hard for me! It’s currently a work in progress for me, but find someone to hold you accountable to finding time to spend soaking in His word. I have trouble ignoring my to do list and focusing on Him. Whether it is first thing in the quiet morning, during your nap time rest time, or after the kiddos are tucked into bed, it’s important to focus on your heart and where He wants you to be. Here are a few books I have read recently, but also be sure to spend time simply reading the Bible and not just study books- that’s a hard one for me!
My favorite book with practical, biblically based tips on handling a home with a large family is Large Family Logistics. It’s amazing!! I HIGHLY recommend it! A lot of the practices are intended for a mix of big and little kids, and I’m excited to implement them as my kiddos get bigger!
So what are your tips? What are the little things you do during the day to make things run smoothly?